17

Michael Gressett files claims of malicious prosecution in CoCo rape case

Former Contra Costa sex crimes prosecutor Michael Gressett has turned the tables on the agencies and people who pursued him for the alleged rape of a junior colleague nearly four years ago.  Read my full story here.  Watch video of the press conference here.

The state recently dropped the criminal charges, clearing the way for Gressett to file today damage claims — the precursor to a lawsuit — against Contra Costa County and Martinez, where he says he was the target of politically motivated malicious prosecution.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the graphic case that has wracked the District Attorney’s Office, the gregarious 55-year-old Gressett displayed his legendary spunk to journalists gathered at his attorney’s Oakland office.

“What would satisfy me would be a trial where all the people listening to the cross-examination would see what I have been seeing for years,” said Gressett, impeccably dressed in a dark suit and red-checkered tie.

But in other moments, a visibly distressed Gressett choked back tears as he spoke about the devastating impact on him and his family in the years since accusations surfaced that he raped a deputy district attorney with an ice pick, ice cubes and a gun during their lunch hour.

“It has destroyed my life in every way possible,” Gressett said. “If you Google my name, you see pages and pages of me being a rapist. You can never rectify that.”

He said the ordeal was especially hard on his college-age son.

Gressett even contemplated killing himself, anticipating the sexual assaults he would suffer in prison at the hands of other inmates as a former prosecutor convicted of a sex crime.

“It would have been a death sentence for me,” he said.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

 

5

Brown names state’s first Latino poet laureate

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Juan Felipe Herrera as California Poet Laureate, the first Latino ever to hold the title.

Juan Felipe HerreraHerrera, 63, of Redlands, is the author of twenty-eight books and now serves as the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Creative Writing Department at the University of California, Riverside. He was a professor and chair of Chicano and Latin American Studies at California State University, Fresno, from 1990 to 2004 and a teaching assistant fellow at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa from 1988 to 1990.

In a 2008 review of his work, the New York Times’ Stephen Burt wrote, “All life, all art, involves boundaries, if only those of birth and death. Some poets keep us conscious of those boundaries; others, like Herrera, discover their powers by defying them. Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”

Upon his receipt of the PEN Beyond Margins Award in 2009, the University of Arizona Press wrote, “For nearly four decades Juan Felipe Herrera has documented his experience as a Chicano in the United States and Latin America through stunning, memorable poetry that is both personal and universal in its impact, themes, and approach. Often political, never fainthearted, his career has been marked by tremendous virtuosity and a unique sensibility for uncovering the unknown and the unexpected.”

The son of migrant workers from Mexico, Herrera earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, a Master of Arts in social anthropology from Stanford University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa. He was elected to the Board of Chancellors for the Academy of American Poets in 2011, was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry in 2010 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry in 2009.

This position requires confirmation by the state Senate, and the California Arts Council provides an annual stipend. Herrera is a Democrat.

Herrera is the eighth person to hold the title of California Poet Laureate since 1915. From 1915 through 2001, the title was unofficial and held for the rest of the recipient’s life, bestowed by the California Arts Council. The Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis in 2001 made it an official post with a two-year term; the governor chooses a nominee from a list of three candidates provided by the council.

Follow us after the jump for a sample of Herrera’s work…
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2

Poll: Americans grow leerier of religion in politics

The public is increasingly uneasy with the mixing of religion and politics, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Church and StateIn fact, the number of people who say there has been too much religious talk by political leaders stands at an all-time high since the Pew Research Center began asking the question more than a decade ago.

Nearly four in ten Americans (38 percent) now say there has been too much expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders, while 30 percent say there has been too little. That’s a significant flip from just two years ago, when 37 percent said there was too little religious expression and 29 percent said too much. The percentage saying there’s too much expression of religious faith by politicians has increased across party lines, but this view remains far more widespread among Democrats than Republicans.

Also, slightly more than half of the public (54 percent) says churches and other houses of worship should keep out of politics, compared with 40 percent who say religious institutions should express their views on social and political matters. This is the third consecutive Pew poll conducted in the past four years in which more people wanted churches out of politics than wanted them in, although the balance consistently tilted in the opposite direction from 1996 to 2006.

And the poll found a sharp divide among voters backing the two leading GOP presidential candidates. Almost six in ten (57 percent) Republican and Republican-leaning voters who favor Mitt Romney say churches should keep out of political matters; meanwhile, 60 percent of GOP voters who support Rick Santorum say that churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions.

For my own part, I’ve got to wonder how much of this GOP split is attributable to Rick Santorum’s supporters being more comfortable with his Catholic faith than most Mitt Romney supporters are with his Mormon faith.

The survey, conducted March 7-11 among 1,503 adults, has an overall margin of error of three percentage points; among the GOP voter subsample, it’s a six-point margin.

5

Rick Santorum to visit East Bay next week

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will visit the East Bay for a fundraising event next Thursday evening.

Tickets for the March 29 event at the Alamo home of Ubokia.com CEO Mark Pine and his wife, Becky, start at $125 per person for a general dessert reception; $500 buys access to a VIP photo meeting with the candidate, and $2,500 buys access to the host committee’s private reception with the candidate. The hosts include former Rep. Bill Baker and his wife, Joanne; Realtors Richard and Mary Jo Bedayn; Tea Party activist Bridget Melson and her husband, Mike; Bob and Joan Stover; and the Frederick Douglass Foundation. (For the foundation’s California branch, click here.)

The Associated Press says Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, now has 263 delegates, while frontrunner Mitt Romney has 563; a candidate needs 1,144 delegates in order to clinch the nomination. Santorum is expected to have a strong showing in Louisiana this Saturday, where 46 delegates are up for grabs.

10

Oakland woman announces bid for BART board

With BART Director Bob Franklin giving up that post to run for Oakland City Council this year, candidates are emerging to vie this November for the open seat he’ll leave on the transit agency’s board.

Environmental activist and local blogger Rebecca Saltzman, 30, of Oakland, announced her candidacy in a fundraising e-mail to friends and potential supporters Tuesday morning. She wrote that her years “of public transit and policy advocacy, coalition building, grassroots organizing, and management experience with local, state, and national issue-based organizations and campaigns has prepared me well for this job.”

Saltzman said that as government affairs manager for the California League of Conservation Voters, she coordinates Green California, a network of more than 80 environmental and social justice groups working to pass and protect environmentally friendly laws in the Legislature.

Earlier she worked for four years as chief of staff of Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy nonprofit. She graduated last year from Emerge California, a candidate training program for Democratic women.

She also is vice chairwoman of Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; has been active in several local and state political campaigns; and is the longtime proprietor of the “Living in the O” local news blog. Until recently she was an avid tweeter as @OaklandBecks; now she’s @RebeccaForBART.

“As a BART Director, I will work hard every day to make BART fiscally and environmentally sustainable, to increase transit-oriented development around BART stations, and to coordinate more closely with other transit agencies – especially AC Transit,” she said in the e-mail. “I will also work to make a dream I’ve had since my college days at UC Berkeley come true – making BART run later on Friday and Saturday nights.”

BART’s District 3 includes all or parts of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Moraga, Oakland, Orinda, Piedmont, San Leandro, and unincorporated areas of Alameda and Contra Costa counties; it includes the Bay Fair, San Leandro, Rockridge, Orinda, Downtown Berkeley, North Berkeley, El Cerrito Plaza and El Cerrito Del Norte stations.

Filings at the Secretary of State’s office show Nashua Kalil, 53, of Berkeley, a former BART planner, also intends to run for the seat, but apparently has not yet made the candidacy public.

7

Newt Gingrich on Medicare, then and now

Newt Gingrich was thought to have doomed his then-nascent presidential campaign last May when he stiff-armed his own party’s budget plan on “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors,” Gingrich had said.

“I think that that is too big a jump,” he had said of the House GOP budget proposal to move Medicare from a system of direct government payment to doctors to one in which private insurance companies would manage a voucher-like system for seniors.

But Gingrich seems 100 percent OK with the new plan being rolled out by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. That plan includes a proposal – made jointly with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. – for an optional premium support plan, which according to them would “strengthen traditional Medicare by permanently maintaining it as a guaranteed and viable option for all of our nation’s retirees. At the same time, our plan would expand choice for seniors by allowing the private sector to compete with Medicare in an effort to offer seniors better quality and more-affordable health care choices.”

Here’s what Gingrich said today:

Newt Gingrich“The House GOP budget is a courageous plan that correctly understands the key to returning to a balanced budget is robust economic growth, spending control and bold entitlement reform, including the Ryan-Wyden optional premium support plan in Medicare. Chairman Ryan and the House Republican’s leadership stands in stark contrast with that of the Democratic Senate, which has once again, failed to produce a budget.”

“My plan to grow the economy and balance the budget differs in details but shares the same core principles as Ryan’s impressive effort. As president I would work very closely with Chairman Ryan to reform government and balance the budget.”

Yet Bay Area Democrats see little if any difference between what Ryan proposed last year and what he’s proposing this week. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare, said:

Pete Stark“This year’s Republican Budget, once again, is a plan to dismantle the Medicare guarantee that Americans overwhelmingly support and that seniors and people with disabilities rely on.

“The Republican claim that their budget would preserve Medicare is both irresponsible and disingenuous. Beneficiaries would be given a voucher — crafted to decrease in value over time — to buy private insurance or try to stay in traditional Medicare.

“This Republican scheme would not only shift health care costs to seniors as their vouchers diminish, but will end Medicare as we know it. Private plans will cherry pick healthier folks, leaving the more sickly and elderly in what amounts to a faint memory of traditional Medicare as costs rise beyond their reach.

“Importantly, the Republican budget would not require plans to provide defined benefits as Medicare does today, thus ending the Medicare guarantee that has defined the program for decades.

“What’s more, the Republican budget would undo the consumer protections provided by Medicare and put private health insurers back in charge.
“Enacting the Republican plan would be devastating to the health and financial security of America’s senior citizens and people with disabilities. I will fight this plan to take America backward.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Ryan’s plan lets Medicare “wither on the vine … The American people have already rejected this plan before – and this year will be no different. Americans’ priorities are clear: Republicans must work with Democrats to preserve and strengthen Medicare, not dismantle it.”